Alex Blanes

Marketing Specialist & Community Manager, THNK, Institute for Creative Leadership and Entrepreneurship


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How can we cultivate courageous, non-violent dialogue between youth and power?

Today, August 12th, 2011, the United Nations' "International Year of Youth" draws to a close. It has been a very interesting year—one of the biggest in recent history for youth-instigated riots, uprisings and revolutions. Perhaps not what Ban Ki-Moon had in mind when he made the statement, "Youth should be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels"!

However, I believe their initial intention to sponsor "Dialogue and Mutual Understanding" between the young and the elite was, and is, a very important one. In fact, I would argue that many of the riots this past year could be attributed to a very profound lack of communication between youth and power.

I believe that if we lack a healthy relationship between ourselves and the unknown, it's difficult to be courageous. The young people of today, myself included, do not have any healthy way of relating to the unknown, seemingly mindless politics of their elders. This is why so many young people lash out—it is their violent form of questioning the silent authority. Neither method is indicative of a real conversation.

So my question is this: how can we stimulate a courage that is constructive, based on communication and positive risk, and not merely on reckless deconstruction of the old paradigms (which is not truly courageous at all)? How do we reconcile the passion and novelty of youth with the sensibility and experience of older generations? How do we enable youth to challenge their leaders, and how do we solicit leaders to challenge their youth—in a mutually respectful dialectic? How do we inspire youth to follow the wise words of Buckminster Fuller: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete"?

  • Aug 12 2011: Honestly, I dont see the riots as a lack of communication between youth and power. I see it as a conflict of real interest. Power has power and resources and wants to keep it, and youth seeks power and resources, and wants access to it. To pretend its just a matter of communication, I think, is to miss the real point.

    Those in power are very willing to use violence to keep it, and its a bit hypocritical as I see it to pretend that youth using violence to get access to it as some aberration in the young. We need to be very realistic about how the powers that run the world operate. Torture, bombing to get access to resources, instigating the malcontents in a society to push them to overturn powers reluctant to do business with our established elite.

    The older members of a society who are on the short end of the financial stick dont tend to riot because by a certain age, they have gathered some material things, may have a family, etc. They arent doing great, but they have what they have and for them, the risk of rebellion is not worth the cost. They have something to lose, and they dont anticipate much gain. They will only be moved to riot if what they have is taken from them.

    The very young have very little to lose, and everything to gain. Of course they will the most willing to begin to fight. Especially in a world where it is very clear that they will have little chance of doing as well as their parents if they dont.

    If we really want to inspire the youth to do what Buckminster Fuller suggests, we should model that for them. We need to face the fact that our leaders do little more than resort to bullying, economic and physical, and thats what they model to our youth. If we want the youth to behave differently, perhaps the older adults should be that which they wish to see in the young.
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      Aug 12 2011: I read Alan Ginsberg's "Howl" a few months ago. I remember thinking of it as "an anguished cry of the human who cannot fit in his father's mouth, who cannot because he is too large, his vision is too large, his future is too large, because he is not food; he is human..." I felt Howl, especially Part II, was a linguistic portrayal of the Cronus archetype, seen in such paintings as "Saturn Devouring His Son" by Goya and Rubens.

      I am a self-confessed idealist. I see the usurpation of children's futures by power as a preventable consequence of the cycles of pain and suffering extant within the human condition.

      Nonetheless, your statement "We need to be very realistic about how the powers that run the world operate" is paramount. This is the current reality, and if we ignore it, we do so at our peril. As Norway's PM said after Breivik's killing spree, "Our answer is more democracy, more openness and more humanity. But never naivety."

      I am very aware, and very appalled, by the lack of real maturity in our "established elite"—and I name real maturity as humanism, global compassion and an attention to *reality* instead of political and economic games. How pathetic—in the original sense of the word—their delusion, and the suffering it begets themselves and all they subjugate.

      Your conclusion is a summation of my "current" life's work. I agree with everything you say here; the first two sentences sent a chilling realization down my spine. Pretence is the farthest from my objectives, and so I thank you immensely for your wise contribution.
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        Aug 12 2011: The relationship between youthful activists who want the power to change and those in the established power group will always be at best a tenuous, guarded relationship. Generational shifts in politics (power) wealth (power) and societal norms (power) occur much like earth tremors and quakes. Very unpredictable - but you know they are inevitable. If there is one thing that can usurp power from those that have it, it is the force of a good idea communicated effectively by a charismatic leader or group. A leader who can galvanize people to action in the face of danger has something more than power at their disposal - they have the antidote to power: the will to change.
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          Aug 13 2011: Jim really I believe in the antidote of will to change, but sometimes the antidote is the use of local enforcement. (Sadly but true)
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          Aug 13 2011: Jim, Luigi --

          I agree with you both, but I think there is more.

          I think the power of galvanized, contagious and fomented passions -- negative or positive -- trumps both will and enforcement as change-making fuel and/or antidote.

          A negative example: London. A positive example: Egypt.

          The difference I observe between the two is:

          London was disorganized and fomented by the long-experienced circumstances that lead up austerity reactions. There was no planned movement, method or leadership, just an angry mob. Aggression was the means. To their credit the authorities didn't react in kind.

          By contrast, Egypt was organized, but also benefitted from unexpected circumstances when internet went down, this got people out from behind computers and into streets.

          Movement leaders' flexibility and ability to adapt, combined with structural strategic strengths to sustain the energies. Non-voilence was a key part of the movements immutable ideals.

          Sadly, authorities' enforcement strategies didn't match the nonviolent methods of the movement.

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        Aug 13 2011: Alex any idealistic utopias have to be achieved with a lot of hard work. Maybe the actual youth (whatever means that) simply dont want or dont know hao to work. Playing the role of victims are fruitless. The things have to be done and the youth generation have the time and energy. Maybe all the youth need revelation instead of rebelion or revolt. We were young some day and in my generation Ginsber was an icon but also Bucky or other likeFerlinghetti or burroughs but all without exception calmed our thirsty in the profoun meaning from the Eclesiastes and then Pete Sieger invent a song: Turn Turn Turn. In the sixties we reborn to a new way to see the world. Today we dont loose that strenght and we all keep working.
        • Aug 14 2011: I think you need to look more frankly at the rioting in Egypt. It began much as the London riots did. Thuggish and violent, random and angry. The big difference is what another large power within the nation did ( the military.) In London, no one in power wanted to take advantage of the rioting to get the entrenched leaders out. In Egypt, there were elements in the military who were more than happy to use the situation to force Mubarak out. Not ot liberate the Egyptian people and give them real democracy, but to position themselves to take the kind of financial advantages of power that Mubarak had been.

          In Libya, there were elements outside Libya who were willing to use the disgruntled to force the entrenched powers out, even though it the movement clearly did not have majority support of the Libyan people.

          In Saudi Arabia, the outside powers helped the entrenched powers maintain control.

          If you look at each individual case, you will see unhappy people as a common denominator, and unhappy people willing to get violent. The biggest difference is not how many of the other members of the population share their ire, but whether any bigger powers find their violence useful and act to support it.

          I also think that pretending that the situation of the young today is comparable to the situation of the young in the west 30-40-50 years ago is a little blurry eyed. Their economic prospects are NOT the same. Globalization has forced everyone into the same labor pool essentially. And not only is it now a global labor pool, rather than a national one, its a larger labor pool by billions. And supply and demand sets price for labor as well as any other commodity.

          The youth today have to invest more for education than their predecessors did, for less return, and less job security, less benefits, less everything. To be "competitive" means doing more for less. I think we need to be realistic about that.
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        Aug 14 2011: Luigi - I hear you! But I still think that ultimately the legitimate will to change wins out over the illegitimate enforcement that tries to stop it - but you are right; it is a force to be reckoned with...

        Andrea, I think I see the will to change and your "galvanized, contagious and fomented passions" as being the same, in a general sense. You really make a great observations re: the Egyptian revolution, but I think the rioting in London was as much the actions of thugs with no agenda other than to take and destroy as it was fomented reaction to austerity measures... But these things happen much like war does - in a fog - so it's really hard to tell...

        Alex, that's the most amazing interpretation og Ginsberg's "Howl" I've ever heard! I think you just might be on to something!
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        Aug 14 2011: Alex,

        I second Jim's comments. I'm inspired and deeply impressed by what you've written here.

  • Aug 12 2011: Well, step one is that power has to acutally give a (edit) POOH POOH.

    I recall numerous marches I went on as a student where some representative of whatever we were protesting would come out and give a little speech. He'd congratulate us all for being concerned citizens and for being proactive and peaceful. Then we would all clap for oursleves and disperse feeling proud of what active and conscientious people we were.

    Then all of our input would be completely ignored.

    Second problem, is that frequently, youth's perspective rests somewhere between painfully naive and flat out stupid. So they themselves have to have the humility to be able to realize where they need to mature, and that they do not in fact, have all the answers.

    Third problem, is that power has to be willing to honestly engage and educate youth, rather than placating or patronizing for the sake of getting them to shut up.

    So step one, I think, starts with completely overhauling the education system, to do away with dogmatic thought processes and create an environment of curiosity, where youth are encouraged to challenge their preconceptions and beliefs. As the father of a teenage girl I can tell you, there is a great deal of social dogma taught in school. Once these youth take over, they will have a better perspective and ability to communicate with youth of the next generation. Youth of the next generation will also be encouraged to have more open dialogue. So I don't see any quick fix, but rather a slow transition by changing current paradigms.
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      Aug 12 2011: I agree with your opinion of the inadequacy of todays curricula. Students now are not taught nor lead into discussions of how our government works or why even government is needed. History lessons (real factual history) would help them mature faster also (a the good ole days). We do not value our children enough - it would be the most patriotic event so far in history to dedicate all resources to their education and welfare. They are the future of not only this country but the world. It would be easy to tell if we valued our children - let me list three ways to tell. .....1) Do you willingly (without objection) send them off to die in foreign wars that you do not understand? ..... 2) Do your school teachers make as much money as your doctors? (read about education in Finland - the best educated children in the world). and ........ 3) What is the infant mortality rate of your country, near the top or the bottom?
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      Aug 12 2011: Do you think "Give a pooh pooh" will catch on as good usage in America and the English speaking world?
      (my commentary has been censored, since I initially referred to a scatalogical sibilant initial anglo saxon word that Jason used previously - but even his use of that word was censored and amended to 'pooh pooh') So I agree that politicians would have to give a 'pooh pooh' in order for the political goals of youths to be considered..................
      • Aug 12 2011: Here here. Pooh Pooh all around. I think I'll just create an acronym.

        Our powers that be have to start a new paradigm in communication. Oftentimes meanings are lost in translation. The idealism of youth can make it hard to communicate with the cynicism of age. it's like they speak two different languages.

        I propose they being a campaign to "Stop, Hear, Interpret, Translate".

        Once our leaders can S.H.I.T. properly, then things will flow between youth and power, rather than simply having input "flushed away". Our youth also need to S.H.I.T., as does everyone really, to clear our channels and do away wth the pungent rumblings of discord caused when we are restricted.
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          Aug 12 2011: Stop Hear Interpret Translate.
          Here's to acronyms! And when it comes to pOOp, sometimes you're the pigeon, sometimes you're the statue. Did they not execute Socrates for 'corrupting' the youth of Athens? Youth are frequently idealists but that is in itself good. To each thing there is a time. Turn turn. We get cynical as oldsters and we need kids preaching revolution (figuratively intended) to balance our views.
          Stop Hear Interpret Translate.
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      Aug 12 2011: Jason, Renzo:

      May I suggest giving a CRAP is more apropos to Alex's Q:


      • Aug 13 2011: That's both hilarious and accurate. Unfortunately, CRAP wasn't the word Renzo and I were asked to edit. But I suggest we run with your idea. This would clearly be a homerun if you wanted to do an awareness campaign. New Facebook group anyone?
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          Aug 13 2011: Jason--

          There could not be a better time for a Facebook-movement campaign themed on this definition of CRAP.

          I suggest calling it: Give a CRAP.

          This all very much relates to DynamicShift (

          It's a cross-partisan, multi-sector productive dialogues initiative I started in late 2009 when it became clear that polarizing rhetoric was the core problem, behind the bigger problem, and that media was amplifying the effect. The strategy is to ignite counter-attentions, in part through provocative, but non-polarizing agitation.

          The CRAP campaign certainly fits this criteria. . .

          DynamicShift, in turn helped inform a much larger national movement, started last Fall, led by colleagues of mine at Center for Democracy and Citizenship who are working with American Association of Colleges and Universities, American Democracy Project and other groups. If this gets rolling, I'm sure they will be very interested in helping spread the word.

          I'm onboard. Just need someone to start the FB page!

  • Aug 12 2011: I think we also have to ask ourselves if "they" (the powerful) are deluded about what they are doing, or if we are.

    I dont think they are. I think they know very well what they are doing, and the sense that they are deluded comes from the way they label their actions to convince us to go along with them. "Humanitarian" wars, are rarely humanitarian, they are economic. Our leaders are not unaware or deluded that they have economic goals, and that their motives are economic. We are. Because they cannot sell a war to the people by saying, "we want you to pay with your tax dollars, and your lives, to help us overturn a government that is not playing ball with the economic powers that fund us, and secure access to the resources in that region to enrich them" and so they make up stories that they know will work with us. "We are liberating x people from horrible tyranny" or "this leader is endangering you, and we must stop them now for your sake."

    They arent deluded about what they are doing. They know precisely what they are doing. We are the ones who are deluded or half deluded about what they are doing. Because we accept at face value the labels they slap on their actions. Until we start looking past the labels, and until we start naming their actions ourselves, based on what is REALLY in the package they are handing us, we will be spinning our wheels.

    Democracy is another label we need to look beneath if we want to solve our problems, really solve them. Do we really have that? Is it democracy when the information people need to vote wisely is kept from them deliberately under the guise of "national security" and just flat out propaganda? In a nation when only candidates who have corporate funding stand a chance of being elected? We are spreading something CALLED democracy around the world, but what is it really when we look in the box?
    • Aug 12 2011: In reference to Alyson... you make a profound and honest point concerning the actions of 'the powerful'. Sadly, and I have had discussions with many people (professors, business people, even authorities on the concept of leadership), and most 'leaders' know right from wrong but choose to make decisions based on self-gratification and short-cuts. Today's climate is one of instant gratification and saldy we are seeing the results in the media daily (from our economic situation to an increase of unethical acts). I am glad to see this dialogue. Any attention on this subject may spark a positive change.

      I have come to realize in the last few years that in my past I have suffered from the "mis-attribution error". I have grown to assume that leaders and persons in positions of authority will put their personal gain aside in order to improve the organization and those persons they are resposible for. This couldn't be further from the truth. Good leaders are the exception and not the rule. Sadly, there are few examples to emulate.

      Your points concerning democracy and the use of terms like "national security' and even others like "domestic terrorism" is nothing but manipulation and worse the general public falls in lock-step and believes what ever they are told. Citizens need to demand more from the government. There is no accountability, no transparency. The government of the past worked for the people- now the people work for the government. The reason- the government has gotten so big that we have to simply accept the actions of this monstrosity. It is merely too big to manage.
      • Aug 12 2011: It is too big to manage. And going bigger, (globalization) just serves to further alienate our leaders from the needs, the wants, and the will of the people.

        I wish I had the solution to the whole problem, but I dont. But I do know for certain that if we dont start by looking clearly at what is happening, and discussing what is really happening, we have no chance of coming up with a workable solution.
        • Aug 12 2011: So true. Another problem that exists is that those making decisions are often too far removed from the real issues. They are alienated from reality. As a result nothing will get fixed.
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    Aug 11 2011: Courage isn't destructive - it's one of the things that keeps people from being destructive. Perhaps most importantly, courage isn't a skill, it's a decision. The decision to be courageous becomes easy when the focus isn't on you, but something greater than self - a principle, cause, movement, vision, etc. What youth is lacking has little to do with talent, drive, ability, skill, etc., but everything to do with a lack of mentoring. This debate is really about a lack of engaged leaders, more than courage. All generations have much to learn from one another and the only thing keeping this catalytic collaboration from taking place is pride, ego, arrogance, and apathy. I've long said that there is more to be learned from dissenting opinions, positions and perspectives than there is to be learned from like minds. If you really want change, look beyond yourself, avoid intellectually dishonest rhetoric, and seek out those whom you act as both student and teacher. I'll leave you with this thought - apathy is mediocrity's most valuable asset, and the greatest liability for those looking to find significance.
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      Aug 12 2011: Resonant concord. Thank you for your contribution, and for teaching me something today. I believe that more than anything, the youth of today—my peers—are crying out for real mentors.
    • Aug 12 2011: Great thoughts Mike, might I alter one thing you said "This debate is really about a lack of engaged leaders" how about engaged AND engaging. . .

      there is a distance between the generations and much of that comes from percieved distance the younger put there as well. . . like Sheryl Sandberg itterated in her talk- we need to allow ourselves to 'sit at the table' regardless of these percieved dividers!
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      Aug 12 2011: Mike--

      Agreed that courage does not require destructive rhetoric or behaviors. It does require critical thinking, however, which might not be welcome.

      I like your point about mentoring. I also think leaders engaging with developing leaders is critical. These relationships are most productive for both mentor and mentee when they are construed more as a partnership than act of somewhat condescending "compassion" or passing on his/her lessons while tapping the younger leaders ideas for his/her work by the mentor.

      These are more dialogic relationships. Wherein, to echo your themes: the developing leader is seen by both as both teacher and student. This takes a "balancing of the egos" effect. And rarely perfectly even or tit-for-than transactional. Its more asymmetrical. The point is both recognize they are both developing together, as individuals and as partners.

      One of the richest experiences I've had with this is when a a colleague, who was coaching my civic skills was willing to follow my lead on an initiative. His ability to set aside ego and quite seriously follow my lead was transformative. What was remarkable was that we have very processes--and this particular one I was introducing was about as different from his way of doing things as possible. And my idea was, to say least, audacious, if not a bit outlandish.

      He has shared with me that what was "in" it for him was not idle experimentation. Though he can be quite generous with his time, he's also exceedingly and beyond busy--can't and won't afford extraneous distractions. His willingness to invest in this effort of mine was related to the relationship we'd developed. Which gave him some evidence of my energies for the engagement I was proposing.

      This gets to your point re: apathy. Co-focused passions can have a compounding effect, even if people's views and/or processes are quite different. As long as both parties see action and outcomes as primary.

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        Aug 13 2011: Andrea I agree with you about the critical thinking. More accuratelly: the lack of critical thinking, the "be so nice" with the political statements or with the opportunities to see the real moment to change something. The so called youth is a concept without be youth from when to when.?
        Then the actual youth is lack of form because a lot of people want to be youth forever with their Peter Pan syndrome, avoiding social responsabilities and with a high ignorance to see how they were really manipulated. The abscense of critical skills become inside the colorfull pack of entertainement. And in contemporary times with the abstract manipulation fron the "so called" social networks. I really believe that the youth has to be reinventes and redefines, but not with the destructive aim from violence (London or Chile for example).Why we dont see again to the "old" paradigms of youthood? Maybe we are loosing the oportunity to rededefining the happines if we keep out of focus.
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          Aug 13 2011: Luigi --

          I think both leaders and citizens can suffer from Peter Pan syndrome. Leaders can sound serious while meanwhile adapting their own social responsibilities avoidance.

          To carry the metaphor, this would be akin to some of Captain Hooks' comrades. He might actually have some serious lack-of-consience cojones, but all many really have beneath all their huffing and puffing is an arrested development fantasy to play pirates with him so they get some of his gold booty.

          While they have meanwhile little consciousness of how much real pillaging they are doing in the process.

  • Aug 20 2011: I myself am a youthful individual, and in the few years that I have walked the planet earth have learned enough to contribute to society. Often people of youth are viewed as naive, childish, however I believe that just because I am not sixty years old my views on socialist democracy or any serious or complicated topic should be taken any less seriously then someone who has lived twice as long as. The youth merely wish to make the world a better place than it was when we were children. I don't believe that youthful individuals are always right, however I think by not valuing our opinions "adults" run the risk of corrupting the minds that will one day become world leaders. By valuing the opinion of young creative minds, I believe we can continuely blend the new cultures with ones from the past, creating a better and smarter planet for everyone.
  • Aug 19 2011: The old arguement for nonviolence seems to be that if you use violence to gain power you will become what you fought against and power will corrupt the ideals you fought for. I beleive this to be very true.

    Untill now. For the first time in human history we are approaching the point were everything we ounce thought extroidinary or immposible is commonplace. We are moving into an era of humanity were all the knowledge of human history fits into your pocket. An era were a child in California can start a riot in Saudia Arabia. Everyone can have a voice a following an idea and give to all world beyond the confines of time and space. Were the people not the government has camera's aand microphones and will spread the secrets of the corrupt to all corners of the world.
    What of your wars and econimies when we are learning to grow any object we desire? When we are figuring out how to manipulate matter and to write the very genetic codes of life.

    We the youth have seen the way the "wise" elders have run this planet as if they not only do not care about us and those who will come after us but as if they want there to be no more life itself across this place we call Earth, this place we call home.

    We are the first generation to know better than those who came before us what the future will hold. We are the first to be able to use the tools of the brightest that have been marginalized by the glittering circus of commercial pursuits. Diesease, war, genocide, inequaility, ignorance of uneducation, these are what you gave us but we will overcome theam, yes we WILL overcome theam. For we are not you we are smarter, connected, and above all else we are aware
    The riots and uprisings that have unfolded are just the begining. A pen is mightier than the sword only becuase the pen can raise an army, and our pens write to any one on the planet.

    We the youth are not you, who came beforewe are not calling for revolutions anymore but for an evolution that islong over due. long over
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    Aug 18 2011: I've read most of the comments on the posed question that both, question and some comments run as I see it for the most part around assumptions over distinctions between old and young. power and powerless and so on. During the six decades that I walk the earth people try to make sense of the world by compartmentalize groups and their supposed characteiristics and in doing so make everything blur. All this time and over all ages I saw stupidity and wisdom side by side in men and women, youngsters, elders, the powerful and powerless, rich and poor, parents and teachers alike, scientists and the illiterate, and so on. I saw kids with a matured mind and matured people that were childish. This last kind are the most troublesome if they're given power. They are selfish, irresponsible and without feelings beyond themselves.If a young bright mind want to have any influence he or she needs to find enough like minded people as a force to make their voice heard. Being heard is being counted in on any decision making. Real power is ruled by money and greed but any good idea can be beneficial for all.
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    Aug 18 2011: Cont’d

    Furthermore, young people are realizing that Marx was right in many ways – capitalism primarily rewards, not contribution, but ownership of capital. We have seen power/money/capital assert itself to obtain ever more power/money/capital for the few, while the disenfranchised poor/young have less power and less opportunity, even in the midst of plenty.

    Yet, human rights can and should trump property rights; knowledge/license to act is power, but absurdly high tuition excludes young people from power; and a political system based upon one man, one vote is rendered unfair/obsolete by the fact that votes can be bought through propaganda by the wealthy.

    And under such a system, in which the deck is completely stacked against the poor and young, and in which old politicians, educators, and those in power are completely clueless as to the lack of opportunity for young people in the midst of plenty, is it any wonder that young people around the world are rioting?

    After millions of years of evolution, we have evolved a sense of fair play for a reason – we understand that systematic unfairness leads to instability and violence, which isn’t good for anyone. It is unfortunate that the old, the wealthy, and the powerful believe themselves above this evolved instinct.

    There will come a time, I believe, when the few haves will fear the numerous have-nots. And if the old, the wealthy, and the powerful do not give some power and opportunity to the young and disenfranchised peacefully (through the first two models, for example), it will be taken violently. Which I believe, politically incorrect though it may be, is as it should be.
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    Aug 18 2011: There are three models that I think would allow young people, and incidentally other disenfranchised groups, to take power.

    First, as I and others have argued, we need a cheaper, more flexible educational/licensing system that respects young people's time and lives and talents. To get respect, our educational system must give respect, and it currently does not do this.

    Second, our political processes (at least in the US, I don't know about Canada) have been hijacked by those who currently have power. For example, the for-profit media tends not to report on publicly financed elections, possibly because they benefit disproportionately from high campaign costs. Congress is filled mostly with millionaires who still must spend most of their time dialing for dollars, and so only those officials who support the "haves" (generally older people) or well-funded lobbyists stand a chance of being elected. As a result, young people's tax dollars go to support those who already have money and power, and social inequality increases.

    If the first two changes do not occur, i.e., young people are excluded from jobs or an excellent education at a fair price AND from a fair political process, then I think rioting/violence is inevitable, because there will be nothing to counter rising social inequality. The wealthiest 1/5 of the US owns 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 2/5ths own 0.3%. This is in the US, supposedly the "land of opportunity." In the UK as well, they used to have financial incentives so people could stay in school past 16. The UK get rid of those incentives, reduced opportunities for the young, and this contributed to the onset of violent riots.
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    Aug 12 2011: Alex --

    I suggest: Seek and illuminate your shared "hidden humanity." This is not about your causes nearly as much as your essential characters. Who is the deeper person behind both?

    This requires:

    1. Engaging leaders where they are at, ideologically. NOT through manipulating your message, or for that matter assuming their whole picture. But rather by reading up on them and, better yet, asking them. What are they doing that you can connect to/with? Whats authentic behind the rhetoric?

    2. Show what you have beyond your cause. Consider and share how this may be of value to them.

    3. Develop ongoing deeper relationship around sustainable topics. Do they have a child who is struggling with something you also care about? Have they experienced something you do as well? Match energies around these.

    4. Be open to, but not over-awed by their expertise. Seek their expert advice. Try to speak at their level, but listen, too. Demonstrate you hear them, if you disagree, do--but not with everything. Interrupt if they begin putting you in "follower" mode too much by launching overly stump type stuff.

    5. Remind them how risks they took earlier in their career paid off and/or how others took risks to develop relationships with them that helped them achieve whatever their cause is/was. Don't expect transactional return here, but do name their return on investment for risking dialogue with you.

    6. Show them how your needs and ideals are not so different from theirs. Best to do this NOT by convincing them you are right (even if you are) but by showing them where your needs and ideals intersect with theirs.

    7. Model commitment to constructive communications by: communicating constructively. No need to spend much time fawning and flattering. But do draw them in by noticing things to build on. Specifically constructive points you agree on. Then--IMPORTANT: move these to shared action.

    8. Show you are a "radical" human: by being passionately humane.

  • Aug 12 2011: I appreciate your Idealism and Dreams Alex, they are noble and frustration qualities to carry in this world. The misconception of youth is that only the young have these qualities. As we grow older, we don't lose these dreams and aspirations but they become tempered with reality. It is only through discussion and interaction with the youth we can rekindle our passion for these alternate realities.

    The current world is contolled by economic greed and democracy is an illusionary bone tossed to the masses. Until we change the world economy from currencies to Humanitarianism and Compassion not much will change. The greedy and self indulgent minority of the population has more than enough power to squelch the odd riot or rebellion.

    This has to be a ground swell movement, and you are on the right track. Honest, open discussion of ideas in a repectful manner is the only way we will change the world.
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    Aug 27 2011: Dear Alex,

    This is a very pertinent question and one a vast number of people have been discussing in the media and in casual conversation. I agree with you that often the violence comes out of frustration. Before I even attempt an answer to your question I would really value an answer to mine as this is an area I have also been working on and would value you clarifying one part of your explanation above:

    "The young people of today, myself included, do not have any healthy way of relating to the unknown, seemingly mindless politics of their elders."

    Could you give more detail on what the mindless politics are of your elders? This is where I think the answer might lie. There has been a huge shift in society but understanding what make young people feel alienated from their elders would be insightful.
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    Aug 24 2011: a structure has to be created that makes the youth part of governance, that way we can test run their ideas. however if we keep growing a crop of selfish youngters, who like our current leaders have no respect for life and property. we'll keep having the same problems.
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    Aug 18 2011: I agree with the statement..."You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete".

    With that in mind, I believe the best way to cultivate courageous, non-violent dialogue, constructive communications, challenge in a non-violent respectful way, is to "be" what we want to "see". We cannot teach the youth something we do not know or practice ourselves. One key phrase in your introduction Alex, is "mutually respectful". We need to be good models for each other.

    Good topic Alex:>)
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    Aug 12 2011: I agree very much with Jason who wrote five minutes ago "power has to give a .......". The fact of the political matter in Europe and English speaking world is that Trickle Downers have sold out (it is a prior isn't it) to corporatist/capitalist interests, as if there were a competition on the plantation for which slaves would become house slaves and get to leave the field work behind. Politicians are totally unconcerned with morality anymore and have been since last mid-century (FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, etc). Money has taken over and only money counts, votes or speaks. I think Trotsky (Lev Bronstein) said something like "less talking, more burning down".
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    Aug 12 2011: Signore Blanes first you have to define the abstract concept about power and youth. Please clarify what is "youth" because in this days the youth concept has no limits in differents point of view. Its not the same youth for western culture or eastern cultutres and with the power happens the same. The relation between this two things also deserves some clarification. As Bucky said change the reality fighting is so obnoxious and tired. But take care of the Bucky wisdom because he said that in one context and you are using his thougts in other.

    About the "mutual understanding" I really see this as a masked lie with the smiling of the wrong focus. We (or you) dont have the right to separate the two concepts when allways have been together. The youth has an special power to transform reality. Also the youth have time. And if you are pointing youth as a soft and low fat part of the community let me remind you that youth have the strenght and will to change positively the actual status.
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      Aug 12 2011: I guess my naïvety reveals itself all too quickly! Ah well. Bucky had another good quote regarding that.

      I would define youth as those possessing the characteristics of the young; i.e. a large quantity of energy and time, inexperience, idealism, passion, etc. Power refers to those who jointly rule the world, along with their interests, statuses and resources.

      I'm not sure I understand your second paragraph entirely... but I really like "a masked lie with the smiling of the wrong focus". Could you elaborate?

      I very much appreciate your comment.
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    Aug 11 2011: The first strategy that comes to mind to me is the sharing of stories. That is, those who work with youth can share true stories of the courageous youth in their own community and country. There are young people doing creative and courageous things every day, speaking up when it is not necessarily easy and finding ways to do things for people or communities sometimes thousands of miles away who need help.Where I live, and perhaps elsewhere, every year the public schools award as the highest honor a student can achieve the Seymour Kaplan award. The award goes to a student who has reached out a hand to others and gone beyond what most students might do to speak or act when others might have taken a step back. It could be someone who stands up on behalf of another who feels she has no voice, for example.The award is valued more than any other a student can receive..
  • Aug 11 2011: "Outward Bound" seems to do the job quite well, except that what you were illustrating was more in the nature of Alienation than lack of courage.
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      Aug 11 2011: You are right. I will reframe my question.
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    Aug 27 2011: Wonderful question and great you quote Mr. Fuller.

    Many things can be done I believe, to start, let youth rethink a city on what it is and how it should function durable. Having these basics is the start of a new model youth can start imagining their collaborative lives upon.
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    jag .

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    Aug 24 2011: One example is in the UK we have a show called 'question time' by the BBC where the public are in the audience and ask goverment officials questions and have debates. There are sometimes young people only shows.
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    Aug 24 2011: I believe that youth in streets protesting for anything is a lot better then youth at home sitting looking at computer screen and trying to save the world. People usually take no actions against things they suffer and in the end they blame some other people who put them in that position.
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    Aug 24 2011: Power is violence...and youth is a fight for idenity.
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      Aug 26 2011: Dear Curtis,
      Violence is not real power, even if it appears that the one who controls the victim is powerful. Violence against others is a sign of weakness and insecurity. A really powerful person does not have to control or violate others in any way. In fact, a really powerful person, will encourage and support others. There are many young people appearing here on TED who know this, and it causes me to be hopeful for our future. They are building "a new model that makes the existing model obsolete". :>)
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        Aug 27 2011: "Power itself must be abolished—and not solely because of a refusal to be dominated, which is at the heart of all traditional struggles—but also, just as violently, in the refusal to dominate. Intelligence cannot, can never be in power because intelligence consists of this double refusal."

        - Jean Baudrillard
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          Aug 27 2011: Alex,
          I believe that intelligence can be very much a part of the new model that is evolving. The new model also embraces respect, kindness, compassion, empathy and acceptance of each other. So, the new model will use the power of love, rather than the power of fear. Our intelligence may grow in a different direction to benefit the whole. This is what I see in the explorations of young people:>)
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        Aug 27 2011: Dear Colleen,
        I said "power is violence" not "violence is power" (and I wholy agree with you on that), and when it comes time to replace the old model with the new there will be a power struggle (not everyone will want the new model), even if your beautiful smile was selling the new model others would find it equally offensive. As far as the young people on TED, While I believe in thier intelligence and that they will help influence the future (and please understand that I am not trying to put-down theTED youth or say they could'nt learn in anyway), I think a good percentage lack the street smarts and understanding of...let's just say the less priviledged.
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          Aug 27 2011: Curtis,
          Sorry if I misinterpreted your statement. I agree that not everyone will want the new model, but it appears that more and more people all the time are searching for a new model, so maybe more people will want it, than those who do not want it. There is power in majority?
          I really percieve the youth of today leading this march into the new model:>)

          p.s. Thanks for the lovely compliment:>)
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    Aug 19 2011: First of all - people have to be willing to listen - to act in a respectful way towards their counterpart. I used to transform a quote of Rosa Luxemberg - German Revolutionary at the times of WW1 - saying that freedom is always the freedom of the dissident - "Respect is always the respect for the experience, the other one has gained." A very rare thing to find these days. It was quite hard for me - a man of 47 years, I dare say - well educated - architect and urban planner, speaking a couple of languages - to explain even to my parents, that the world nowadays is a different one than the world 40 years ago. Was very hard to explain them, that it wasn't my fault, that the system spit me out.
    And - who's listening - who's caring about kids any more. There was another quote of the "Sponti-movement" - following 1968 student rebellions here: "You've got no chance - go for it !" - Later it was Punk, saying "No Future" and - "we're the ones, our parents warned us against." Now it's altogether - and - I'm an indignant as much as the guys on Puerta del Sol in Madrid and Placa Cataluniya in Barcelona, in Chile and the Free Gaza Youth kids in Gaza, knowing, that my own kids won't have a chance in a system of barbarianism and cannibalism - such as their father, who always protected his teams in pretty doubtful hierarchies against people, who weren't able to listen. I mustn't say here, that I know, that I'm not an angel - I'm writing my phd without having got a doctoral advisor - the system only offers me its bottom - and - Buckminister Fullers quote is a nice one, but - if nobody listens to your new models, cause everybody's out for quick and unilateral - black and white solutions ? The other day I told my Mom, that she always had said to me that one won't get gifts from the others - I replied - "Well - that's right. I know that and - I always had to work hard to get through many hassles. But - today we're one step further - today everything is taken away from us." Best- sf
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    Aug 18 2011: Believe in youngsters. Give them chances. Let them breathe.
    They can be creative as well as they can be innovative (sometimes very professional).
  • Aug 15 2011: That's the problem with the "Youth" today! Challenging EVERYTHING! The only thing the "youth" out there should be doing is showing respect to their elders, and learning to respect AUTHORITY. There has to be order or there WILL be chaos. I have yet to see any good out of youths challenging the rules. They should be using this energy to CREATE things, and if they don't like the way things are ran today then they should CHANGE it.
    "Knowledge is power, and with that power comes great responsibility." - Spiderman Comics or movie
    Music or Art is a great non-violent way of releasing pressure.
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      Aug 15 2011: It seems you are saying 2 differnt things here. One that the youth should respect elders and authority and two if they do not like how they (meaning elders and authority) run things then the youth should change it. By challenging authority and elders and "everything" it is a way in which to initiate change. To rock the boat so to speak. do i agree with this method? Well, it is no different than how some adults and even our governments behave. Look at warfare for instance, terrorism, and how we react to terrorism. We could say we should respect another countries ideals and systems, however if their ideals and systems conflict, harm or impose on our own, then you will be sure we will strike back.

      If we really look at youth, then see them as a mirror of what we have taught by example and also a reflection of what we believe them to be or even should be.

      Yet the youth is very resourceful, creative and quite capable....even more so than some elders and authority figures. I read of a 12 year old boy who began a program to feed the homeless using food that restaraunts would otherwise dump in the trash. There are youth today that actively run their own businesses online...successfully. The problem isn't about the youth needing to be respectful of elders and/or authority so much as the need to involve our youth in communities, projects, and encouraging them to find and use their talents to contribute to society. As Gandhi put it "be the change you wish to see in the world"

      How can we ask them to respect us when we in turn do not respect them or what they have to give? How can we tell them to respect us when many adults do not show respect to their elders and authority? How does authority get this respect when they use the same methods of change you speak against?
  • Aug 14 2011: I have to agree with Mike Myatt, that what the youth need and require is first and foremost mentoreship first from their parents/families and then the community around them. Its not simple to just say we need more leaders and programs making the roots more engaged. All these solutions donot tackle the root problem , whcih is basically the social decay of the family structure in the west. With families being more dissected and even the definiton of family subject to change, there is no real sense of belonging for the youth. They have no real mentors or trustworthy relations. We are starting to see the ramifications of the free-world, with its neo-liberal and individualism based social structure. The youth of today are very much distracted, unfocused, unaware of firstly themselves and clearly of the world around them. I am not beign a pesimistic but realistically speaking majority of the first world youth have been brainwashed or are distracted by irrelevant popular culture and media. I think the solution is to get back to the roots, we have given to much power to the individual and not enough responsibility. we need to strengthen our family ties and bonds with our kin. So that that real sense of community and sense of belongining develops. The Egyptian revolution worked, because the social structure there is world apart from the social structure that exists in the west. The youth i believe need good parenting and a family structure for them to grow in and develop their sense of being. I feel the uk riots and even vancover riots was just a glimpse of the unrest and unhappiness that exists in the youth. Its almost like the analogy of sick baby, it knows it sick but it cannot express it in words, so it just cries and throws a tantrum.

    We cannot continue this sort of liberal approach to the youth, by giving them endless independence and liberty to do whatever they like, whenever they like, they require good discipline and mentorship whichs tarts from teh family.
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    Aug 13 2011: The history of humankind says this gap was wider earlier, all the wars were created by elders where youngers were martyrs with out even knowing why they are going to die !!!

    Good news is, I feel today we have better opportunity than ever to cross pollinate ideas , thoughts across the age groups, race, community, countries etc etc TED itself is an example there are lot more.

    Challenge is how to come up with executable actions targeting peace and humanity through this kind of dialogue or exchange of ideas.
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      Aug 13 2011: Salim, . How do you know, affirm or proube that you said?
      That "gap" really exist o rwas just a false flag in the sixties?
      Earlier? When? Before what? After what?
      Which wars were created by elders? When ? Where?
      Martyrs?Who? In the name of what?

      In your first paragraph you affirm. In the second you "feel" your ideas are confuse, or a very strict and accurately knowledge? Or is just your opinion?
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        Aug 14 2011: Luigi , part of it's in my opinion on the basis of facts.

        Go beyond 60s, look in to World War I & II and far beyond in history of crusade, who created all those wars ? Were not they elderly generations of their time ? Who fought and died ? Were not they youthful youngs ?
        A couple of times I was in cemeteries of 2nd world war in my country , reading the tomb stones , found most soldiers died were in their early twenties.
        Who are fighting and dying now in Iraq or Afganistan ? Who created those wars ?
        Do you think there was a open dialogue between youth & power centers who are elders almost all time (exception is Alexander the great being too young ) before starting those wars ?

        My feeling is about todays situation & projection of future , and my opinion based on facts was about past, so it's not confusion.
        One can conclude on past only , for present & future no one can be that sure to conclude anything :)
  • Aug 13 2011: I'm not sure how useful it is to talk about "the youth" as an homogeneous collective. One of the clear signs that has come out of the UK riots last week is that there as many young people outraged by the riots as there were opportunistic criminals of many different ages, classes, races and backgrounds.

    What did strike me about the UK riots was all media commentary was made by establishment figures, MPs, police commissioners even youth leaders but there was no-one commenting who would make an impact on those youths who were carrying out the rioting, therefore whatever was would be instantly ignored. In that respect, I think it is an issue of communication, but not what is said but how it is said and through what methods.

    This issue goes beyond a youth/power divide in the respect of who and who is not disenfranchised. Again, power, influence and privilege is as much around class, social status and background as it is age.

    There is also a high degree of expectation management to be had as "youth" occupy fundamentally different informal social structures to those that adults (mostly) happily slot into. This is also true of what concerns the majority of youthful energy. If one were to collect all energy generated by young people, realistically what percentage would be concerned with issues of social leadership, development etc and how much of it would be concentrating on sex, friendships, fun, testing boundaries etc?

    All the youth led changes that have happened have had a high degree of crowd psychology at the heart of them, which we know to be fundamentally different to how individuals operate - excellent discussion of that here:

    Something that is, in my opinion, strictly to do with age is world view - Is it about finding middle ground between two opposing world views and weighing up the relative importance of the issues that need resolving? But how do you get participants to understand the other point of view?
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    Aug 12 2011: Alex --

    Suggest you consider reading Harry Boyte's writing. He is very interested in and quite respected regards non-violent social movements. Among many he's worked with is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. He very much sees youth as critical to culture change. And, to that end, is co-director of Public Achievement. Which works with student groups around the world.

  • Aug 12 2011: I think the best thing we can do to empower the 'youth' is start young and create curiousity. . . encourage the curiousity and nurture it. . .
  • Aug 12 2011: How do we enable youth to challenge their leaders, and how do we solicit leaders to challenge their youth—in a mutually respectful dialectic?

    VERY IMPORTANT AND POWERFUL. . . thank you for beginning this conversation and all though I am not going to truly respond now I wanted to show my support of the idea!
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    Aug 12 2011: I believe that there will be no absolute mutual understanding between those in power and the youth, because we lived/ are living in different generations. The elderly had a very different youth generation from us, so obviously that made a concrete barrier on mutual understanding. Some of them never listen to the youth. Having a courageous, non violent dialogue is not impossible, but it's near to it, somewhat.